Have Financial Goals This Year? Set Them SMART, As They Say
We all strive for some kind of financial goal in our lives no matter how big or small. I know I do. Some of us have those goals clearly defined and written down, while others have them in a broader sense. When you set financial goals, you should essentially ask yourself: what kind of future do I want? What are my hopes and dreams, and how do I get to them?
Goals are our desired results and achievements. It is very important to set financial goals in our lives as blueprint roadmaps to help us make choices on how we spend money.
Our goals should be specific and clear enough to help us prioritise how we use our money. We should be able to measure them and track our progress depending on the timeframe we have given ourselves in setting our goals.
The following are the five key elements that our financial goals should have to make sure they are properly set and have an increased likelihood of being achieved. The acronym reads SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Reachable, and Time-bound.
Our financial goals should be specific. For example, one may say, “I want to be successful.” This is not a specific goal. It is vague, malleable, and subjective. A specific goal should read, “I want to buy or to build a home.” In this example, as long as you have not bought a home nor built one yet, your goal to buy or build a house has not been achieved. Therefore, setting specific goals comes with accountability because you have defined a specific performance metric against which your progress in achieving your goal is to be laid. It is very important to maintain an element of accountability stemming from setting specific goals.
Our financial goals should also be measurable. For example, “I want to buy a five-bedroom home.” Or, “I want to buy a one hundred thousand dollar ($100,000) home.” Or, “I want to save $10,000 for an emergency.” There has to be a way to measure or quantify our goals so that if we fall short of achieving them, we will be able to hold ourselves accountable.
So, ask yourself; are your goals specific? What exactly do you want to accomplish? Why is it important to you? Is it something you truly want enough to work hard for or is it just some nonchalant wishful thinking?
Are your goals measurable? If it is saving for your child’s college, for example, decide how much money you are targeting to have earmarked for that purpose. This allows you to track progress and ultimately know whether or not you have achieved your goal.
Our goal must be action-oriented. We should know what specific actions and steps we need to take and complete in order to meet our goals. If it is earning a big salary, then you’d better work hard and long hours, and/or be skilled to command a big salary. Is it leading to a very lucrative career in sports or performance arts? Then you’d better practice your sport or routines every day if you want to stand out, be great, and be successful.
Reachable or Realistic
Our financial goals must be reachable or realistic. Nothing is more counterproductive than setting goals that are not realistic and reachable. Big dreams are encouraged, but make sure they remain within the realm of reality and possibilities. Ask yourself, is your financial goal realistically likely to be achievable considering other elements?
As much as we do get amped up by those pep talks and motivational speeches that we see on TV, it is very important to be realistic and sometimes take baby steps as we grow. When we set very unrealistic goals, we may fail, not because we are not competent, but because the goals we set couldn’t be achieved given other elements beyond the realm of our influence. Unfortunately, when this happens, it can have a long-term toll on our confidence, once we see a long list of what seems to be throngs of failed causes. We set ourselves up for failure.
Timeline is very important when it comes to setting financial goals, or any goal for that matter. When setting goals, we need to set a timeline to achieve them. For example, when will you buy a house? Or, if your financial goal was to have a million dollars in your retirement account by the time you turned fifty years old, then today, on your fiftieth birthday, can you look at your bank account and see at least a million dollars? If that is the case, you have achieved your goal. Otherwise, even if you make five million at fifty-one, you still did not achieve your initial goal set for your fiftieth birthday. This is very different from just saving as much as you can without having a specific amount in mind, set within a specific time horizon.
Stating that you want to become a millionaire is not in itself a goal because this untimed goal can be stretched for a whole lifetime without ever being reached. Give yourself a specific timeframe by which your stated goal must be achieved.
So, ask yourself again, is your financial goal time-bound?
In conclusion, you must sit down and review your current financial position. Write down all of your financial goals, and ask yourself: are your goals Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Reachable, and Time-bound? If your answer is YES to all of the above questions, then your goals are SMART and you are on the right track to achieving them.